March 13, 2013, 9:55 AM

Even in a hurricane or other crisis, the web site must click

An IRCE speaker explains how the Red Cross stayed online during Sandy.

Lead Photo

Craig Oldham

Through a new web site platform launched last fall, The American Red Cross is transforming how it helps local communities as well as improve fundraising, says Craig Oldham, vice president of digital engagement. And unlike in the past, the new web site enables the charity to stay online with local chapters even when they get hit by crises like last October’s Hurricane Sandy, he adds.

Oldham will discuss how his organization’s new web platform remained in top operating condition during Sandy even for local chapters in hard-hit East Coast communities in a June 5 featured address at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition 2013 in Chicago. The day before his presentation, the conference will feature a day-long workshop devoted to e-commerce and nonprofits.

“The Red Cross is transforming the way we deliver our mission, fundraise and prepare America,” Oldham says. In an IRCE session entitled “When consumers come, you gotta let ‘em in,” he’ll discuss how the new Red Cross web site provides better personalization and targeted content to more effectively engage site visitors in hundreds of communities during emergencies.

The American Red Cross last year replaced what Oldham refers to as a “hodgepodge” of e-commerce technology from multiple vendors to operate more than 500 web sites for its local chapters. The old system had required managers at each local Red Cross chapter to administer their own web content, a chore that could become impossible when a hurricane or other crisis demanded their full hands-on attention helping local residents. Local sites were also more likely to suffer an outage during a storm.

In his IRCE session, Oldham will discuss how the Red Cross replaced the old system with a single e-commerce platform based on Oracle Corp.’s ATG Web Commerce On Demand technology. The new platform, which Oracle hosts on the Internet, handled a record of more than 500,000 page requests per minute during Sandy and some 75,000 credit card users making donations simultaneously, with 22 financial transactions per second—without any site downtime, Oldham says. The new ATG site also lets personnel at Red Cross headquarters manage local site content when local managers are unable to, he adds.

“Our new strategy and execution was put to the test during Superstorm Sandy,” Oldham says. “This session focuses on that journey and how it all worked during one of the biggest disasters to hit the U.S. in years.”

The editors of Internet Retailer invited Oldham to speak at IRCE because of his extensive background in e-commerce technology and online marketing. Prior to The Red Cross, Oldham was an assistant vice president at Zurich Insurance, where he developed an online lead generation program for its North American global marketing unit. He was also director of Internet marketing at Allstate Insurance and a senior manager of product marketing at telecommunications companies Sprint and SBC/Ameritech (now AT&T). 

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